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Gianforte Signs Policy Allowing Doctors To Bill Patients Directly

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte at a bill signing in Billings Apr. 21, 2021.
Kayla Desroches
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte at a bill signing in Billings Apr. 21, 2021.

Under Montana law, doctors can now bill patients directly for some health care services instead of working through insurance. The policy was signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte on Wednesday.

The law allows patients to enter into membership or subscription plans with their provider for specific health services like preventative care or routine visits.

Governor Gianforte signed the bill during a ceremony at a direct care clinic in Billings.

“The truth is Montanans have not had enough choice for healthcare, and they’ve had to pay too much for the healthcare they’ve gotten,” Gianforte said.

The legislature passed similar bills in 2015 and 2017 but the policy was vetoed both times by former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. He said direct care adds costs to customers because basic insurance already covers those same services.

Insurance companies opposed the bill for similar reasons this session and industry representatives said the direct care model does not cover expensive emergency needs like ambulance services.

Former state auditor and current U.S. Representative Rep. Matt Rosendale permitted the direct care model through an advisory memo in 2017.

Senate Bill 101 made the policy state law.

Cole Whitmoyer is a nurse practitioner and the owner of Flex Family Health Direct Primary Care. He says direct care allows providers more flexibility.

“This model helps separate you from all the other burdens that maybe a larger system would ask of you and get back to more simple things,” Whitmoyer said.

Eight direct care clinics have opened in Montana since Rosendale’s 2017 memo, according to the Associated Press.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.